Los Angeles, CA – On March 15, 2022, it was with great pleasure that Moran’s introduced the James M. Cole Collection of American Indian Art to a myriad of collectors far and wide. Enthusiasts of all genres bid for the opportunity to own one or more treasures, resulting in a 100% sell-through! The ‘white-glove’ auction of over 300 lots proved that there is a basket for every collector and more. Many items exceeded expectations with more than half of the auction selling over the high estimate. Hats off and thank you to all our enthusiastic bidders!
Native American baskets, were, without a doubt, the main focus of this auction. Cole’s collection was comprised of many different types of baskets mainly from California and the southwestern United States. Consisting of over 150 lots, all sizes and shapes were desirable, with finishing prices streaking past original estimates. California Mission region baskets stood out, with several finishing well above estimates, and forming the top lots in the sale overall.
The star of the show was the magnificent Lot 103, a polychrome California Mission area Rattlesnake basket. The masterfully woven, coiled basket with a striking image of a coiled rattlesnake in dark juncus rattled the buyers up with fierce competition, to a final strike at $29,250 (with buyer’s premium), setting a pretty high bar for future offerings. A prime example of the style, rattlesnake Mission area baskets are highly sought after, with many a serious collector desiring an example as part of a solid collection. This basket is enticing for many reasons, including the highly contrasting image, the use of black or dyed juncus which is less common than the red, the relatively large size of the tray-shaped basket, and the beautifully executed delicate pattern of the snake, with the glimpse of the tail of a second snake in amber juncus trailing off the rim.
Other California Mission baskets that proved popular include Lot 146, a California Mission basket which attained $12,500 (with buyer’s premium), from an estimate of $400-600, as well as Lot 114, [PHOTO 2] a polychrome California Mission basket with an eye-catching eagle and cactus motif, selling for $5,937.50 (with buyer’s premium), well above an estimate of $1200-1800.
Baskets from other regions of California also took the bidders’ fancy. Considered one of the Cole Collections’ top examples of exemplary basket work, Lot 94, a Mono Lake Paiute basket by Emma Murphy, featuring insect and frog images did not crawl slowly, but darted away to a Live Auctioneers’ bidder for $11,875 (with buyer’s premium), from an estimate of $6000-8000. From the Yosemite region near Mono Lake, Emma Murphy favored the use of realistic animal patterns. Born in the late 1860s/early1870s, Emma’s work was highly rated and considered exceptional, although her weaving career was relatively short, as she died in late 1925. “Your basket is a fine example of the weaving of the Yosemite-Mono Lake region, and a rare example of the work of a weaver who died at the height of her creativity” (from a letter by Craig Bates, the former Curator of Ethnography at the Yosemite Museum).
The basket offerings ranged from large to diminutive, such as Lot 173, a polychrome Washoe beaded and lidded basket, estimated at $300-500, and finishing at $2,812.50 (with buyer’s premium). The treasure basket, covered in exquisite net beadwork, is one of the more colorful baskets, and will certainly add a dazzling accent to its new home. Two similarly shaped small globular Yokuts lidded baskets, Lot 207 also held interest, with a $500-700 estimate, finishing at $1,900 (with buyer’s premium). The distinctive imagery of the patterns of these baskets proved attractive, with one basket displaying a rattlesnake banded motif, and the other with stylized flies and ant motif to the lid. The imagery of Yokuts baskets is important and often tells a story. For the Yokuts people of Central California, the figurative and geometric designs are often influenced by or represent characters from their surrounding environment. For example, they were keenly aware of their dangerous neighbor, the rattlesnake, and created folklore surrounding their appearance. Other native characters played into the warding off of snakes, including ants, whose ability to bite and sting a snake made them a worthy adversary to the rattler.
Capping the collection of baskets were the Hupa/Yurok/Karuk basket hats from Northern California. All six lots surmounted their estimates, with Lot 70, a group of two hats topping out at $4,550 (with buyer’s premium), from an estimate of $700-900. A couple of the Hopi baskets fared well, and the monumental Lot 267, a large polychrome Hopi basket in vivid colors and with striking Kachina motifs, concluded at $3,437.50 (with buyer’s premium), from an estimate of $1,000-1,500. This basket won the “Best of Show” ribbon at “The Original American Indian & Western Relic Show,” Pasadena, CA, in 1995. Another striking Hopi design, Lot 269, A vibrant Hopi Second Mesa wicker plaque, took off and tripled its estimate of $300-500 to land at $1,875 (with buyer’s premium)!
“The masterfully woven, coiled basket with a striking image of a coiled rattlesnake in dark juncus rattled the buyers up with fierce competition, to a final strike at $29,250 ”
Continuing the Southwest theme, Southwest pottery deserves a serious mention and did not disappoint. A group of Hopi pottery, Lot 274, finished at $3,900 (with buyer’s premium), well above an original estimate of $300-500, and included pieces by Hattie Carl and Fannie Nampeyo. A Margaret Tafoya blackware pottery vase, Lot 50, finished at a respectable $4,375 (with buyer’s premium), from an estimated $500-800. However, it was Lot 51, a large hand coiled blackware Santa Clara pottery olla, from the late 19th century, with exaggerated waist and pie crust rim, that drew the most attention and had bidders on online platforms competing to ultimately attain $8,450 (with buyer’s premium). Graceful in form and exceptional in execution, this jar will crown any pottery collection!
Striking examples of Southwest jewelry featured in the collection and, while not numerous, still prevailed and led to top bids all-around. Lot 27, a group of two Pueblo necklaces proved that early examples of these styles are always desirable in the marketplace, as the stunning pair achieved $4,375 (with buyer’s premium) from an estimate of $500-700. However, the popular Abraham Begay Navajo bolo ties cinched up the bidding with a powerful showing, with most of all bolos achieving well over their estimates. The highlights include Lot 139, a dazzling silver and inlay bolo which sold at $3,125 (with buyer’s premium), estimated at $600-800, and the crown jewel, Lot 140 featuring an elaborate inlay design in silver and blues with inlay tip dangles, closing at $4,375 (with buyer’s premium) from an estimate of $800-1200. Born in Ganado, Arizona in 1953, top contemporary Navajo/Dine artist Abraham Begay has been making traditional and contemporary jewelry since the mid-1970s. Although he is self-taught, Abraham grew up in a family of silversmiths, and credits his family with sparking his interest to learn silversmithing. His contemporary pieces blend high tech with traditional, ancient design elements, making his jewelry highly sought after by collectors. Abraham displays multiple talents in his fine silverwork and intricate inlay, using bright colors and high-quality stones in every piece. His boldly contrasting inlay designs often extend beyond the silver edges, as if the inlaid stones are growing out of the piece itself. “Abraham’s jewelry designs are said to be ‘poetry come alive’ through silver.” (Garlands, Sedona AZ; Dancing Rabbit Gallery)
Ancient designs and contemporary stone artifacts featured in the collection, as multiple lots of framed, boxed, and grouped carved flints and stones of all kinds. Interest was keen, and bidders got straight to the point, leaving no stone unturned. Lot 45 was the top lot of points, with a top bid of $3,750, estimated at $600-800. Lot 44, a large glazed framed board of multiple points arranged in a design reminiscent of Northwest Coast button blankets and including zoomorphic points proved the most colorful, and finished at a decent $2,812.50, well above a $600-800 estimate. Multiple bidders were also competing for the carved stone items of Lots 200 to 203, including plummet/charm stones, possibly used as net weights, and carved stone atlatl weights. In the end, it came down to three bidders all vying to add the distinctive and beautiful stones to their collections. All the lots attained top bids well above their estimates, with the top bidder of Lot 200, a group of California plummet/charm stones taking the plunge and reaching $5,312.50 (with buyer’s premium) from an estimate of $1000-1500.
The joy of this auction was the variety of items on offer, and the interest from so many diverse collectors. Unexpected highlights abounded and kept everyone on their toes. Lot 20, a vibrant pair of Sioux beaded and quilled hide moccasins estimated at $600-800, realized $2,125 (with buyer’s premium), and an elegant Sioux quilled pipe stem, Lot 61, also had a smooth finish, selling at $2,500 (with buyer’s premium), nearly tripling its high estimate of $600-900. Many of the Navajo textile items were successful, including Lot 247, a dramatic Navajo banded blanket with natural wools, estimated at $700-900, and Lot 118, a Navajo Two Grey Hills rug, woven by Eve Bryant, estimated at $600-800. Each finished well above their estimate, to sweep the floor at $2,812.50 (with buyer’s premium).
Finally, the attraction of Lot 84, a late 19th/early 20th Century stereoscope with a group of stereoscopic cards, prompted bidders to act sharpish and keep focused to achieve the clear result of $8,125 (with buyer’s premium), from an estimate of $300-500. Time travel seems to be possible while using this stereoscopic viewer to examine 19 cards depicting scenes of various indigenous people of the Great Plains in the late 19th Century.
Coming up, Art of the American West in May will showcase a strong selection of Native American textiles, ceramics, stone fetishes, baskets, and more. Highlights for this sale are currently available on our website, with more featured in the coming weeks. Now is the time to ask: what do you have that you would like to have valued? It would be very exciting to be part of another record-breaking sale! Better yet, what will you buy and add to your collection?
Sally Andrew, John Moran Auctioneers
Studio Fine & Decorative Art Online: Tuesday, March 29th | 10:00 am PDT
The Traditional Collector: Tuesday, April 12th | 12:00 pm PDT
Fine Jewelry and Timepieces: Tuesday, May 3 | 12:00 pm PDT
California & American Fine Art: Tuesday, May 10th | 12:00 pm PDT
California Living: Tuesday, May 17th | 12:00 pm PDT
Art of the American West: Tuesday, May 24th | 12:00 pm PDT
Post-war & Contemporary Art + Design: Tuesday, June 21st | 12:00 pm PDT
Made in Mexico: Tuesday, August 23rd | 12.00 pm PDT
John Moran’s takes the health and safety of our staff and customers seriously; as such, sales will continue to be held online and without a live audience. However, each item is available for public preview. Moran’s auction showroom is over 10,000 square feet and allows clients to preview objects within established social distancing guidelines so that buyers can feel confident when making an appointment to preview the property. For upcoming highlights, online catalogues, and more information on these sales, visit Moran’s website: www.johnmoran.com. Bidding is now available online via Moran’s new mobile app, Moran Mobile, available on both iOS and Android operating systems. Live bidding on a desktop is available through our website; bidding is also supported by telephone or absentee. Consignments are always welcome: Email us at [email protected] today!